Friday, November 20, 2009

The collapse of climate science (allegedly)

Much twittering about a leak of a great number of files, coding and e-mails from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. It certainly humanises the process (and gives a different meaning to saying that 'the science is in')!

Interestingly (for me at least) in the bit of the book I was processing today, I said this:

Yet Mammon also has his soldiers. Think of a listed company which has a certain legal personality and certain legal duties in terms of maximising the value for its shareholders, an institution which is geared up in pursuit of very defined aims, and those who work within that company, if they do not pursue those aims, they can either be liable, or they can be sacked or even taken to court. What this means is that a situation can develop where an entire company is oriented on something which is destructive of wider humanity. The people involved will work for what the whole company is designed to do, to pursue economic growth for itself, and that is reinforced and strengthened by everything surrounding it in terms of its legal structure and its corporate ethos.

A good example is Exxon, and its financing of climate denial. For the last ten or fifteen years, Exxon has funded at least a dozen so-called “think tanks” with very impressive academic sounding titles like The Institute for Climate Research, and there was a conscious strategy to persuade the media that there is debate in the scientific community about the nature of global warming. It wasn't even to prove that global warming is wrong, the aim, the conscious aim was to ensure that the media portrayed it as a debate. Now for those of you who went to see Al Gore's film, "The Inconvenient Truth", there is this wonderful moment when he surveys the last fifteen years of published scientific papers on global warming, of which not 1% denied the reality of global warming, and it compared it to the articles in the media, discussing global warming, which were split pretty evenly between those who said it was true and those that said it was false. In other words Exxon's strategy had succeeded. This is a good example of where a company has pursued its own interest at the expense of the wider community. Within the terms of what the company has set up to do it is entirely rational, it makes perfect sense. This has meant that they can have a better return on their investment for their shareholders. So we can think of them as mammon's soliders, because they are working for mammon.

Even though I've become an AGW sceptic since speaking those words, I still think the above is true.

UPDATE: this video will give a good flavour of the issues at stake:

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